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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

WWYDW: Who should be the Flames’ sixth defenceman?

And all of a sudden, the Flames have a really deep defence.

It’s not necessarily deep in terms of elite talent level – Mark Giordano is elite, and after him, everyone else mostly ranges from “very good” to “developing” to “okay” with a side of “I would prefer you not be on the ice” – but it is in terms of actual NHLers at their disposal. With Michael Stone back in the NHL, the Flames now have nine defencemen available:

  • Giordano – the favourite for the Norris Trophy this year, one of just five defencemen 35 years or older to score 65 points in a single season ever.
  • TJ Brodie – Giordano’s regular partner, and his first partner since establishing himself as a top-tier defenceman, albeit with some misgivings in his own game.
  • Travis Hamonic – often reliable to take on big defensive minutes, with a surprising uptick in offence this season.
  • Noah Hanifin – 22 years old, playing in his fourth full season, likely to set a career year in terms of points.
  • Rasmus Andersson – 22 years old, established himself as an NHL regular this season, already tasked with playing on the first pairing at times.
  • Oliver Kylington – 21 years old, wasn’t supposed to be an NHLer this year but has slid right in out of necessity, plenty more promise to come.
  • Oscar Fantenberg – Recently picked up, unspectacular but solid, someone you’d definitely trust on the bottom pairing.
  • Dalton Prout – Probably the least desirable option, but he does have over 250 games under his belt; certainly, worse could be done, but probably a last resort.
  • Stone – Just now returning, so we’ll have to see how things shake out over the rest of the regular season. However, he was originally slated to be part of the Flames’ six main defencemen – that he now serves as an alternate option indicates how much more the core has grown over the past couple of months.

This doesn’t include Juuso Valimaki, who could be added to the group at some point, but for the time being isn’t a factor.

The main thing that’s led to this gain in defensive depth for the Flames is all three of their high-end defensive prospects working out: Kylington was able to step in for Valimaki’s injury with little to no disruption, and that bodes well for the team’s future.

But the big one here is Andersson, who went from starting the season in the AHL (albeit never playing an AHL game) to overtaking a veteran’s spot in the lineup to being a regular on the second powerplay unit with top pairing potential that he’s already displaying. Andersson adds a lot to the Flames’ defensive group: he’s another talented player the team can count on in most situations. If he were to be removed from the equation, the Flames would still have a pretty decent grouping, but a less talented one, and one that would be much harder to get excited about.

In the meantime, though, the Flames have 12 games left in the regular season, and that means 12 more games to mix and match their nine defencemen. I think it’s fair to say that, assuming the Flames are dressing a full lineup every night (i.e. not resting anyone healthy), Giordano, Brodie, Hamonic, Hanifin, and Andersson will be dressed every single game, leaving one spot open for the remaining four defencemen to rotate through.

Which brings us to the what would you do part: who would you want to regularly dress as the sixth defenceman, a player who would likely be either Andersson or Brodie’s partner going forward? (Either Brodie or Andersson is going to be Giordano’s partner, leaving the other one to play on the third pairing with another defender.)

Prout is probably the least likely to draw in on the regular. Kylington is the Flames’ sixth-most played defenceman this season in terms of games, but did recently miss some time due to an injury; at this stage of the season, we aren’t going to know just how hurt any player actually is, so his injury status remains in question. Fantenberg is the new guy who has taken Kylington’s spot, and has had a good early showing. And Stone is the most known commodity, albeit one who hasn’t played in the NHL since November.

How would you arrange the defencemen going down the stretch, and who would you like to see as a regular in the lineup once the playoffs start? What would you do?

  • withachance

    I think in the playoffs, it’s now probably 75% Fantenberg, 25% between Stone and Prout. They all feed into that line of thinking that playoff hockey require toughness and experience. Bit too early for Kylington to be exposed to that level of intensity

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    What would I do?

    Gio-Anderson
    Hannifin-Hamonic
    Brodie-Stone

    This is my short term over the next number of games (but could be longer term) Why? We need to see a bit more of Gio/Ras to know if it can be a thing next season, leaving you more comfort in a potential Brodie trade. We need to know what Stone is looking like at the NHL level before playoffs. It adds three right shots down the right side and last but not least… Brodie/Stone have looked good before. Once you know you can trust Ras up top, maybe you move Brodie back with Gio to start the playoffs (up the trade value).

  • Off the wall

    Fantenberg has proven himself a decent pickup. He’s averaging 14 minutes a game, is seldom out of position and takes the body. His stats defensively, already indicate he’s a good candidate for the 6th spot.

    Although it’s only been 5 games, he has numbers equal to Andersson. And Andersson has earned himself a regular spot on this team.

    I don’t know what Peters has in mind, but Fantenberg has been solid!

  • cjc

    I don’t think Fantenberg was acquired to ride the pine – he will be the default sixth D when the playoffs start.

    Over the next 12 games I expect Stone and Prout to see some games. However, I think they have their minds set on winning the division (and conference), so until that is locked in (or out of reach) I think we’ll see mostly Fantenberg (with Stone/Prout potentially drawing in against weaker opponents in back-to-backs).

    The real question is where Kylington fits in all this. He hasn’t been returned to Stockton – I think that’s because they still want to give him a few games before the postseason and they don’t want to burn a regular call-up on bringing him back. Once the team can start resting players there should be an opportunity to play Stone, Prout, Kylington and maybe even Valimaki if he gets a call-up.

  • T&A4Flames

    Depends on who else is playing. If you have Brodie or Andersson playing 3rd pair, make Fanta the #6 as he is a solid stay at home type and will allow the other 2 to focus more on their offensive games. If they put in Stone, which I’m certain they will before the seasons up to get him some reps before playoffs, or even Prout for that matter, put in Kylington (or Vali when he gets called up)again for that good defence-offence balance.

  • cjc

    Assuming no injuries, this should be the opening lineup for the playoffs:

    Gio-Brodie/Andersson
    Hanifin-Hamonic
    Fantenberg-Andersson/Brodie.

    Kylington/Valimaki
    Stone
    Prout

        • withachance

          Most realistic, not what I would do. Believe it or not, most coaches and GMs still think experience is a key factor in the playoffs. Ras has 0 playoff games, not unlikely to see BP sit Ras for a game or two in the playoffs so he gets a feel.

          It’s not us fans that make lineup decisions, its BP, and experience is high on the list for basically every single coach of an NHL team. Who are we to say they’re wrong?

          • Cfan in Van

            Depends on how far they make it. We’re stocked to the gills right now because fatigue/injury plays a big factor over the course of the playoffs. If we go 2-3 (or more) long rounds, the lower guys will get subbed in when appropriate, just to recharge the guys who are ailing.

        • T&A4Flames

          Exactly. Of all the rookie D he’s been the most consistent. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was designated popcorn muncher for a game here and there. But I think he starts game 1 for sure.

  • slapshot444

    Another question,, do they start resting Gio ( and others) prior to the playoffs even though we are neck and neck with the Sharks. That boils down to would you rather be rested and play Vegas first round or go all out and possibly win and play the low wild card. We may not beat the Sharks for first regardless.

    • deantheraven

      The conundrum. I think the Flames need to get some room between them and the Sharks again. That means we have to win and they have to lose. If the Sharks don’t help us out soon, BP will be running with the top guys until it’s no longer a math question. I’d look for all of the D playing and sitting at some point if it was me. Playoffs are a long grind.

    • Ari Yanover

      Seems like, for the time being, they’re getting players’ extra rest in by just holding fewer practices. I think until it’s a mathematical certainty of where they’ll fall in the standings, they’ll keep dressing the full lineup (barring an injury someone can’t play through); if they keep pace with the Sharks until their game against them then they pretty much gotta do it.

    • cjc

      I think they will manage minutes, but Gio and others only get outright rested once Calgary has sealed the division (or San Jose has). There could be a lot of opportunities to reduce Gio’s minutes – Calgary only has 3 left against teams that are potentially playoff bound.

  • Flint

    TJ should be our #2 defenseman for the rest of the season and the playoffs
    Then trade TJ in the offseason. TJ is a good defenseman. In fact, he’s a great defenseman and some other team should give us an equally great or even greater ~5mil AAV second line RW’r for him.

    After this season, we just don’t need him, but we do need a second line RW’r.

    • deantheraven

      I get your logic, Flint, but I’m not “in” with you.
      Driving up a player’s trade value isn’t something teams typically think about when icing a playoff team. Playoff performance might move the needle a few degrees in trade negotiations but I wouldn’t bet on it turning a first to two firsts for example. If the extra D-men can step up, I don’t think there’s a reason to play Brodie if he suddenly takes a swan dive into the dumpster.
      If he’s shaky, he sits. Period. If he’s playing well, ride him.
      Come end of June-July 01, Tre’s going to have options.

  • deantheraven

    If you believe it doesn’t matter who we play, then mix & match as you like, take aggregate results and choose you Sub-Bottom 3 (6-9 spots). if you’re looking at playoff match ups with bigger teams (SJS, VGK), Prout and Stone are heavier and Phant is big and strong enough to provide some physical net-front presence.
    Need for speed from the back end? Olli has it in spades, and he seems to be getting better at not coughing up the puck at the blue line.
    Brodie however…
    It really might be a case of not who to put in but rather who to sit.
    I guess that’s it, isn’t it?
    Nice!

  • LannyMac

    Well well we have found a topic that might just supersede the goalie topic how refreshing. Last year at this time I was hoping that Dougie could just go away and never come back. For two reasons he is and was absolute trash in his own end an Brodie was an upgrade over Hamilton when he played with Gio a few years previous. When Hamilton was booted out of town I was convinced all the bleeding hearts who where pissed at Hamilton’s exit would soon be eating your words. Fast forward to March 13/19 ohh ohh! Speaking of trash if I was coaching this team(and thank god for flames fans I’m not) Brodie would in all likelihood be down for the year regardless what it would do to resale. It’s crunch time and as unsure as I am about having Andersson on my top four there is no other option. He is going to make mistakes playing against top forwards but not nearly as much as Brodie. Stone is not an ideal pick to be in the top six but he is rested and will play more mistake free game than Brodie. I like Valimaki offensive upside but the playoffs are more about safe than flash and that describes Fantenberg. Lastly I would play Hamonic and Hanifin as much as if not more than Gio and Andersson. When Hanifin is playing tough and smart he and Hamonic are our best D pair. Just saying.

  • Brian McGrattan's Salute

    It would be ridiculous to not play Brodie for the rest of the season, or the playoffs.

    If anything, put him on the third pairing with Stone or Fantenberg, but you that would be the worst move ever to just not play Brodie.

    Also apparently stone has really worked on his skating, so I’m excited to see him play

    • LannyMac

      Brian it’s ridiculous right now playing Brodie. He is creating numerous egregious mistakes a game. Especially in the playoffs when giving even just one bonehead goal a game is usually the difference. I want to dress a guy who isn’t a tire fire. Right now tire fire describes Brodie

      • Avalain

        Maybe tire fire does describe Brodie right now. But before Stone went down that’s how we were describing him. I think recency bias is clouding your mind right now.

  • cjc

    Let me get this straight – people are actually saying bench our second highest scoring D (who incidentally has 9 points in 15 playoff games), who is a 55% CF guy, who still gets 51% of high danger chances when he’s on the ice? I know he’s made some boneheaded plays, but I feel like we’re a bit primed to see the flaws in his game and a narrative that isn’t supported by data has developed. I guess since Neal is still injured the team needs someone to flog.

    Like, I agree that he’s propped up playing with Gio, and he has made some high profile errors lately but jeez, we could be doing a lot worse than Brodie.

    • withachance

      This. Fans are fickle beings, myself included, but the bashing on Brodie and Monahan lately has been pretty head scratching.

      One good game and people will go quiet. Dont see a lot of people looking for Monny to be demoted today, wonder why… Same can be applied to Brodie when he makes a dirty pass or skates circles around the other team in a game.

    • deantheraven

      To rape and pillage Shakespeare, I come not to bury (or praise) Brodie, but to give his head a shake.
      If BP can utilize a right shot RD (Stone) that doesn’t poop the Posturepedic, let him sit for a game or two. I don’t think Brodie is done as an effective D-man. But for him, brain farts are fairly common lately. I wouldn’t want to see that more than once come playoffs. Then they become brainsharts. (can I say that?)

    • HOCKEY83

      Finally someone who has an intelligent hockey thought regarding Brodie. It’s all for nothing though because there’s no way the team or the coaches feel the same way this lynch mob does about brodie

    • LannyMac

      You bet CJC Phaneuf was great at getting pats but was a joke in his own end. Hamilton the same. So just because TJ can get you puts he should be in the lineup. What ever happened to a dman playing defence. Is it just me or should we call the position something else.

      • Albertabeef

        So because you don’t see him lay someone out with a massive hit, you think he does not play defense? Of all top 4 defensemen, TJ has the lowest goals against per 60 minutes played at even strength. How does that happen if you don’t play defense, can you explain this?

      • cjc

        For what it’s worth, Phaneuf was a +19 player during his career with the Flames. He may have been a pilon at times, but was far from a terrible defenseman at that point in his career.

        Flip the script – should we be playing guys that don’t support their forwards, never pinch, can’t move the puck and don’t use their speed to cause chaos? Just sit back in the neutral zone or blue line waiting for opponents to break out? Should we play Stone, who has a way worse track record and hasn’t played an NHL game since November, over Brodie?

    • jupiter

      “A narrative not supported by data “. Haha. Guess we’ll have to file it under luck. What’s the formula for luck ? Oh yea , good or bad luck get’s used to either support or deny a analysis. OK Brodie’s boneheaded moves are just bad luck.

  • FlamesFanOtherCity

    The issue for me with Stone is that he can only play one spot; 3rd pair on RD. That does not allow much leeway. If he plays with Ras, then Ras has to play LD. If he plays with Brodie, then Brodie has to play LD.

    Looking at the overall strengths of each player, I would keep Brodie on his preferred side. I would not slot Stone in unless there is an injury.

    Gio-Ras
    Hanifin-Hammer
    Fantenberg-Brodie

    Each pair has a steady defensive guy and a mover. Each pair has a good point shot. Split the minutes fairly even, then give the extras and special teams minutes to the best of the 6. We saw the top pair have an off night, and the minutes were fairly evenly split. That worked out pretty good. I believe that Fanta-Ras only allowed 2 shots against the entire night. May not always be the case, but it shows a good trend.

        • Albertabeef

          It’s cause I get thoroughly trashed when I say bad things about Gio. I don’t bother anymore. Gio chases the puck way too much and gets out of position a lot. To some fans he is “God” like and completely infallible. Makes me wanna puke, but what can you do. Oh don’t get me wrong, he is great. Just not perfect by any means. But every time we say he’s up for the Norris, it’s with Brodie as his partner.

    • everton fc

      Stone’s around if there’s injuries. Prout, if we play a team getting a little rough w/our players. Valimaki and Kylington will see their days. Fantenberg is the most qualified – but Brodie/Prout has looked pretty steady.

      I think, if we juggle defenders due to an opponent’s “truculence”, Gio/Andersson becomes the first pairing, and Brodie/Prout the 5/6. If we stay status quo, Fantenberg/Andersson remains the best “5/6” option.

      • 100% this. Brodie and Prout actually looked pretty good together, small sample. I seem to remember they played together years ago. I love that with out depth we can juggle quite a bit if we do run into injuries. I have a serous hunch Val and Fant could be a great duo with some time together as well.

  • everton fc

    With the Expansion Draft on the not-so-distant horizon, it’ll be interesting to see what happens to Kylington. Ultimately, I see Fantenberg as the #6, come playoff time. He’s not a kid, and seems to play a cool, collected game. And the price is certainly right.

  • moodyblue2

    BP needs to watch Brodie closely at the start of games. Any giveaways or disinterest in Brodie’s game, down to the 3rd line. Try this for the remaining 12 games then reassess for the playoffs! Any brutal games, sit him and bring in Oliver!

  • 谢谢兄弟,我爱你

    I’d give Fantenberg a lot of the final 12 games, to see what he is and where he fits.
    Brodano
    H&H
    Fant & Ras
    Brodie and Ras can swap places as necessary.

    Based on that assessment of the final 12, I’d likely start the playoffs with:
    Brodano
    H&H
    Fant or Kyller with Ras
    I don’t think Stone is an improvement on any of the players I’ve listed so far, so he’s my #8. Prout is a distant #9.
    Add Jussy into the mix and I drop Stone and Prout below him.

    Next season, I think Brodie and Stone are gone (and Prout?) and I think I’d do this to start:
    Gio and Ras (Rasdano!)
    H&H
    Fant, Kyl, and Jussy duke it out for 5-6-7

  • Garry T

    I have watched Brodie closely over the last five games. Giordano as well.
    Against Vegas and NJ , Gio was on for a lot of goals against. Giordano has altered the role status with TJ. TJ has always been the gambler and Gio supportive. I think the coaches don’t see the difference and they need Gio back in a more defensive role. I watched for TJ getting back to the bench. He wants to win. He loves it in Calgary and with a lot of kids coming, there is pressure to hold onto your job. You can see that he is trying to do too much and that takes him out of his wheel house. Barring the current mistakes that are hurting us, his ability to make plays is wonderful. I think the coaching staff needs to look at tape without him or Gio present, and analyze where things have gone wrong. I think Gio wants to win as well and is trying to carry the team, so he is on the rush leaving no one back.
    There’s a problem, the boys don’t want to make those errors. They don’t want to leave the Tenders high and dry but they are doing so. Find the problem and fix it. Gio is probably good for another 3 years and then we are going to need Brodie to take charge of the back end and be that Leader.
    TJ has been good for this team ever since he came. We need to cut him some slack while the Coaches work out what the issues are. Another thing, Frolik is the glue on that 2nd. Line. Without him, it falls apart. Trade him and we will regret it so cut him some slack as well.

    • Agree with you 100%, except for the last sentence of the second paragraph. Gio probably does have a couple more great years, a couple good years after that, couple decent ones after that. TJ will not be the leader of our D, by then Ras or Val will be our 1D

    • Kevin R

      I’m not so down on Brodie as many are as well. I agree that Gio’s best years where is has been a Norris candidate have been when he has been paired with Brodie. Gio is elite & even as he ages will make for a solid #3 that can play top minutes in a crunch. Brodie to me is going to need to move on this summer. Not for the reasons many like to dump on him but that we have both Andersson & Valamaki that need to be in the top 4 + Hanifin + Gio. Brodie is better than a top pairing & asset management dictates we move him with a year left to a team like Montreal where we can score a top goalie prospect in either Lindgren or Primo & probably extract a 2nd & 3rd out of them as well. Hamonic is a core of the earth type of guy that really only wants to play in the West & in particular Calgary. Him & Fantenberg would be awesome on the bottom pairing & I think Hamonic will embrace his role & sign a very team friendly extension. How I see it anyway.

    • SeanCharles

      This is the salary cap era, we need to make decisions so we can fit the key players in under the cap and bring in cheaper youth to support them.

      Brodie, Frolik and Stone are players that are unlikely to re-sign and with the youth coming it makes sense to maximize value and trade them.

      I don’t get why the Frolik and Brodie fanatics don’t understand this.

      Gaudreau, Monahan, Lindholm, Tkachuk and Backlund are our key top 6 players and Ryan, Bennett, Jankowski, Hathaway, Mangiapane, Czarnik and Dube are all players that can play in the bottom 6 and are relatively cheap for what they provide.

      Frolik is 30 years old and makes over $4mill, he has amazing games every 20 games or so and is fairly mediocre otherwise. I agree he is a strong defensive player and is a player I think adds value to our team but with the salary cap and the more than capable cheap youth in mind we need to move on from a guy like him and look for a long-term solution to round out our top 6.

      Brodie is not more important to this team now and in the future as is Gio, Hanifin, Hamonic, Andersson and Valimaki. He just isn’t and the fact that we have the 3 youngsters mentioned above along with Kylington it seems logical that Brodie be a guy we move out as well.

      We won a crap ton of games when Frolik was injured earlier in the season and Andersson is showing signs of being able to handle more icetime in the top 4. When you have guys like Valimaki and Kylington available to play on the bottom pairing already does it make sense to keep all these guys?

      The salary cap exists and its something that needs to be managed. Outside of some bad signings in Raymond, Brouwer and Neal Treliving has done an admirable job at it.

      We have young guys like Dube, Mangiapane, Andersson, Valimaki and Kylington that are allowing us to trade expiring contracts like Brodie and Frolik to gain value for them and making cap space to make our team better suited to compete for a long time.

      • Yeah I can agree with this for the most part. I have written before (and I’m not a Brodie or Frolik fanatic) but I think both players are good value for the contract for what they bring. Does that make them untradeable or that we shouldn’t trade them? No. It is simply that you need to get VALUE for what they are. You seem to undervalue both players. Do they have flaws? Yes. Do they get paid like a Norris or Selke candidate? No.
        I think both could be replaced with probably a downgrade temporarily in skill/experience but with what they can bring back in picks, prospects, cap space to sign/resign players may be the way to go.

      • Albertabeef

        Ok so really Neal(and the cap) is the reason we need to trade Frolik. H e has been good to the team and I really don’t think we have a better RW other than Lindholm.
        Stone gets traded because he is too expensive as an 8th D option. Hamonic and Brodie to me are probably closer to being equally expendable or valuable however you prefer. I worry if Gio signs his next contract with the Leafs if he doesn’t retire. A lot of kids from Ontario dream of playing for the Leafs one day, and the Leafs haven’t had a good team much of Gio’s career till now. Really would not surprise me, he could basically sign anywhere he wants to now. So you could lose him to retirement or free agency, or you could ask him to wave his no trade and move him for something very valuable. VERY VALUABLE! Nothing less than Marner or Mathews(type) not a Nylander(type).
        Hanafin Andersson
        Valimaki Kylington
        Are our top four D in four years most likely. But by that time they will likely make close to what our current top four get paid(as a whole).

        • cjc

          They don’t “need” to trade Frolik, but they might. Frolik has a 10-team NTC though. I’d sooner trade Bennett, who is due a new contract.

          Stone is unlikely to be traded. It reminds me of when people made trading Wideman sound like a breeze. Calgary could retain salary, but it just seems unlikely to happen. A buyout is more likely.

          Gio will be 38 when it’s time for a new contract. If he leaves to sign with Toronto then, oh well. Teams don’t trade generational talents for 38 year old defenders (and you’re assuming that Gio will still be playing at his current level).